Couple’s mission: More parking for city’s disabled

Insufficient parking for the disabled and the enforcement of handicapped violations have been nagging Palm Coast residents Woody and Joan Freeman. The husband and wife are physically disabled and confined to wheelchairs due to his polio and his wife’s cerebral palsy.

The insufficiency proposed the crux of writing Mayor Milissa Holland in February to provide more handicapped parking and possibly put together an organization of disabled persons. It is said that the Palm Coast disabled community does not have representation.

Fighting for more handicapped parking in Palm Coast, Woody and Joan Freeman are shown with their friend Carlos Felder, who happens to be a candidate for Hastings mayor.
(JEROLINE D. MCCARTHY/DAYTONA TIMES)

In Palm Coast, 8.6 percent of the residents under 65 are physically disabled. There are 17,000 Flagler County disabled residents, which include disabled veterans.

ADA involvement
From a background in public TV in Columbia, South Carolina, Mr. Freeman’s energies were directed to the political/governmental scope as a board member of “Citizens for the Advancement of the Physically Handicapped (CAPH).” The board’s efforts led to the creation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“In 1990, it received state and national recognition for its efforts and was invited to the White House for the signing of the ADA.”

Mrs. Freeman was employed in the medical field as a nurse supervisor for 40 women.

“She is a very proficient writer; she’s been published quite a few times,” Mr. Freeman said.

Not alone
The 15-year Palm Coast residents are not alone in the struggle.

Mr. Freeman has canvassed other disabled persons in handicapped parking after they’ve come out of the stores, “and the biggest complaint has always been, there is not enough handicapped parking,” he said.

“Many physically handicapped citizens, who can only walk short distances, have told me of their exasperations of finding a place to park. Many of them must park at the back of a parking lot waiting for a handicapped space to come open,” Mr. Freeman reiterated in a letter to U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

City’s response
Moreover, Mr. Freeman explained that neither the mayor nor the assistant city manager has met with them. The assistant city manager is tagged ADA coordinator. The couple’s letter was said to have passed to three other city employees, who agreed there was not enough handicapped parking, and that it was not their responsibility.

Included with the three city employees was an individual that “came in and started citing things from the ADA.

“Since I was one of the people that originated it, I corrected him,” said Mr. Freeman. The city official stated that the only way he would grant additional parking would be with a letter from State Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Letter to Landon
Further correspondence from the Freemans to the City of Palm Coast – and particularly in a letter to City Manager Jim Landon – has resulted in the 2016 Florida Statutes, Title XXXIII, Chapter 553.5041, 4C, declaring that the “number of parking spaces for persons who have disabilities must be increased on the basis of demonstrated and documented need.”

The “local newspaper recently suggested that by 2030, Palm Coast’s population will be more than 300,000, yet the number of handicapped parking spaces has not increased to reflect our fast-growing town,” cited Mrs. Freeman in a June 14 letter in the “Opinion/Readers Write” column of the Flagler/Palm Coast News-Tribune.

Patrolling it
It is Mr. Freeman’s understanding from the former sheriff and the latter aforementioned official that prior to Palm Coast becoming a city in 1999, the City of Palm Coast wanted its own police department.

However, it has since transpired that the Flagler County Sheriff’s Department would patrol Palm Coast, but not physically look for handicapped parking violators.

It would render that duty to the Citizens Observation Patrol (COP) to only issue warning citations to persons without decals even though a sign might read that it is a $250 parking violation, or a $150 violation.

Mayor Holland had asked Mr. Landon to respond to another of Mrs. Freeman’s letters.

Legal wording
Mr. Landon answered that “the number of handicapped parking spaces the City may require for each business is controlled by Florida laws implemented by the City when new commercial projects are approved. The City does not have the authority to require additional parking spaces at the time the business is constructed.”

Mr. Landon further penned, “I agree with Sheriff (Rick) Staly that the City is responsible for making sure the appropriate handicapped signs are installed. The wording of the signs, once again, is required by law, and the City enforces those requirements at the time the parking lot is constructed…Any enforcement of the handicapped parking spaces is the responsibility of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.”

Along these lines, the Freemans discovered in the 2016 Florida Statutes, Title XXIII, Chapter 316.008, (4) a county or municipality may enact an ordinance providing a fine for the violation of s. 316.1955 in excess of the fine specified by s. 386.18(6), except that such a fine may not exceed $250. Any such ordinance may provide for the deposit of such fines in a separate county or municipal account to be used in the following manner:
(a) One-third to be used to defray expenses for the administration of this subsection.

(b) Two-thirds to be used to provide funds to improve accessibility and equal opportunity to qualified persons who have disabilities in the county or municipality and to provide funds to conduct public awareness programs in the county or municipality concerning persons who have disabilities.

“To me, that would end up being eventually a good deal of money!” exclaimed Mr. Freeman.

Disabled hired
Mr. Freeman has researched that several counties in South Florida like Boca Raton have hired disabled people – wearing uniforms – to patrol the parking lots. These people go along taking pictures of others parking in the handicapped parking spaces. And invariably, they nail the $250 fine.

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I am wishing my readers a richly blessed summer, and I look forward to returning in the fall from my vacation. Enjoy the summer!

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As always, remember our prayers for the sick, afflicted, the prodigal son, or daughter, and the bereaved.

Celebrations
Birthday wishes to Mattie DeVore, June 29; Bob Banks, June 30; Jimmy Goodridge, July 1; Wilfred “Vinnie” Carr, July 4; and Alexandria Johnson, July 5.

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